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Maadi, Cairo, Egypt.
Tee Pee: A Taste of Khan El Khalili in Maadi
Though we continue to see international brands flood the Cairo shopping scene, local ventures are appearing at a similarly steady rate. Hidden away in one of Maadi's smaller roads, Tee Pee is really easy to miss. You'd never guess how big the shop is from the small glass front you have to take a few steps down to get to; but then you open the door and are greeted with a subtle, warm ambience and an insane number of home accessories.
Everything you could possibly think of in a traditional Egyptian bazaar, and then some, is on offer. The shop is so packed with accessories, it could be a little disorienting, or it could be awesome - depending on how much of a shopaholic you are. The lighting is dim and relaxing, the products are plentifuland the browsing experience is great.
It's not quite a bazaar, though; while it could be a great place to buy souvenirs or gifts for family or friends, it's a much better place to turn a dull room into something much more interesting with a vision in mind.
When you first walk in you'll find ornamental and jewellery boxes in different sizes, coasters with quirky Arabic quotes and all sorts of Pharaonic-inspired jewellery including necklaces, bracelets, earrings and more, all ranging between 10LE and 100LE.
There are all sorts of notebooks and pads, some leather-bound, others made with surprisingly soft recycled paper ranging around 110LE. Other miscellaneous items include small ornamental tablas, drums, maracas and shakers ranging from 60LE to 150LE.
You can also find elements of pop art and kitsch in the form of canvas posters and smaller wall-mount photos ranging between 25LE and 200LE. If you walk a little further on, you'll find different kinds of metal-work ceiling lamps, some intricately designed with stained glass hangings ranging from 150LE to 850LE.
Deeper into the shop, at the far end, there's a smaller section with canvas bags in different patch designs, scarves and pashminas, in solid colours and others with intricate patterns.
Other items include glass jugs, compartment trays and plates, candle holders, individual beads for jewellery making fans,
It's interesting to point out that possibly the best thing about Tee Pee is that the staff don't follow you around or get in your way, as per the typical Egyptian shopping experience. Instead, they let you browse freely, as there's a lot to see, but at the same time everything is conveniently labelled with a price tag so there's no need for interruptions.
The one problem with Tee Pee, however, is when you compare it to the bazaars and stores of Khan El Khalili, you'll find that the prices are a bit higher across all the products. If you're a fan of the authentic journey to the bustling heart of the city, this place may not be for you, but if you're willing to pay a little extra to save yourself the hassle of traffic and haggling, you should drop by.
Cairo has its faults, but there are few capital cities in the regions that are as eclectic and unpredictable – the good kind of predictable, of course. Well, most of the time. It’s something that has carried over to the city’s shopping scene; these days, across local and international retailers, you can find almost everything and anything in Egypt’s capital – in fact, everything and anything describes Africano Gallery fairly aptly.
Located on Zamalek’s El Gezirah El Wosta Street, the shop is rather hidden, located at the top of a set of side-stairs in its building. Once you see it, though, it hits you; Africano Gallery sports a big front window displaying what look like African, Indian and classic-style antiquities. The interior is simple, with its range of products spread out over its two-floor space, the first of which primarily houses accessories and gifts for men and women.
The first thing that stood out was a table in the corner with a colourful display of handmade Indian beaded necklaces for 110LE each – and yes, they were actually made in India. Same goes for the Indian bracelets which go for 85LE – which is staggering when you consider that the same brand and model of bracelet for up to 350LE at a certain Zamalek shop on Ismail Mohamed Street.
Men aren’t as lucky with the shop’s collection, however; some of the stock including metallic chains (15LE) and others made of a kind of faux-ivory (10LE). These things in particular look as cheap as they are and stood out like a sore-thumb amongst the other more tasteful accessories in the shop.
The second floor is considerably grander, holding the more antiquated pieces as well as home accessories. Some of the items that caught our eye include decorative Indian pieces that look something akin to a cross between a dreamcatcher and an oversized pendant which shows a scene of a chain of elephants (65LE). Some Thai-made wooden wind chimes, in several sizes, also tickled our fancy, with the smallest selling for 125LE. Also on the list of must-checkout items at Africano Gallery are the shop’s lamps, the best of which are made either of wood or copper; of the latter material, a Thai lamp in the form of a carved elephant head stood out (275LE) for its intricacy and detail, as well as its natural wooden finish. The copper ones, meanwhile, take on a more classic in appearance, with one of the standout ones including a pair shaped like classic torches (350LE for the pair).
As much as we were impressed and initially struck by the quirkiness of Africano Gallery, we can’t help the fact that the worst stuck in our heads more than the best did and that you’d find much of the shop’s stock in other similar stores. Despite this, there were a few outstanding pieces.